(Waffly wall of sapph-text incoming).
So right now it seems 90% of the posts on the top of the tank forums are Paladins wanting an increase to their DPS, tank-minded tanks saying they don’t like the focus on DPS being so important over survivability, people saying Warriors are hugely overpowered and Dark Knights being snarky. Random figures on damage percents are being thrown around as uncited facts, and everyone seems to be getting on each others’ nerves.
People seem to feel the need to justify their tank spot in a raidgroup, or feel the reason they don’t have a raid spot is due to their choice of class. It’s natural to want buffs, and it’s natural to feel a bit sad that Class Y does more damage than Class X.
In my mind (as a fairly average Paladin main soon to start work on A3S, who has a 60 Warrior too and tanks alongside a DRK in most cases) right now the three tanks are in a pretty good spot balance-wise. Alexander is a strange instance that differs in feel quite a lot from how raiding has been in 2.0 because the focuses vary a lot. Right now you can point to any of the alex savage encounters, and either the MT or OT role for each, and fairly objectively say “a …. would be the best tank for this role”. Right now, Warrior is the most frequently used tank to fill that slot, because the focus is on hitting HARD enrages. It’s literally a black or white result that if you don’t have enough dps for an encounter then you fail. A lot of previous encounters have had softer enrages, where mechanics repeat constantly but getting harder each time, so DPS was important to skip phases but if you had a team that could handle the mechanics perfectly it wasnt as important.
As a result, DPS on most of these encounters is king, and thus the Paladin falls by the wayside as a choice because they do the least damage of the three (DRKs obviously do less than warriors too, but in the most minmaxy stats, DRK/War will always do more damage than PLD/War). The difference isnt that huge though, and whilst the world firsts on A1S and A3S used DRK/WAR for the damage, many groups have since cleared with Paladins. People tend to forget about A2S though – it’s a paladin playground. Sure the other tanks will contribute more to the AOE damage but that generally isnt the stumbling block that makes people fail. It’s the tanks falling over, and A2S is all about lots and lots of physical damage. Paladins are king.
We look back at the older 2.0 content and similar things happen. Titan Hardmode, back when everyone was in crappy gear and Warriors were poopy. All that mattered was whether your tank could survive mountain busters, comboed with the AOE stomps. T9 had mechanics you could skip with DPS but there was mostly a huge amount of Damage coming out on the tank. T13 was all about frequent tank cooldowns to mitigate dumb amounts of damage. Warriors could do it, extra DPS helped, but the stumbling block most groups faced was tanks falling over.
A1S and A3S have been different it seems entirely because of SO MUCH focus placed on DPS, along with tankbusters being primarily magic so DRKs will outshine Paladins (PLDs still mitigate a huge amount of damage across the entire fights but DRKs just make it a bit easier on the single big hit). A4S has yet to fall and people are complaining primarily about people dying in Quarantine. It might be when the gear levels are here to allow it to fall that Paladins are viewed as the ideal offtank for surviving that.
Obviously as a Paladin main I have a few niggles about my class. As a Warrior player it feels like the warrior’s skillset is “smooth” – everything works nicely, it has good niches and isnt frustrating to play. It has defined roles and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a warrior player recently asking seriously for any kind of buff. As a Paladin I’m fine with my AOE damage being the worst, i’m fine with my OT DPS being average, as I have the strongest mitigation cooldowns. I certainly wouldnt complain about a small buff to damage in an MT position, perhaps much higher threat/damage on Shield Swipe to make it actually worth pressing more and to mean a PLD MT could sit in Sword Oath a little more frequently without needing as many Halones to get that early threat lead. I definitely don’t think Paladins should be -higher- in damage than DRK or WAR when MTing though. They need their niches too.
I suggest the tank forums wait until A4S is downed or the next tier of raid content starts appearing and see where SE’s philosophy lies in terms of the importance of nothing but raw damage output vs a tank’s actual tanking skillset. If every single encouter is purely won or lost due to having the high dps to hit a super tough hard enrage, maybe it’s time to nerf the survivability of PLDs/DRKs a little and buff up their DPS. If we get more encounters like A2S or the oldschool 2.0 tank killer stuff, there’s really no need for non-WARs to get angsty about their choice of tank.
TLDR: right now the balance of damage taken, mitigation, cooldowns, MT dps, debuffs and OT dps is pretty good. The most PLDs/DRKs need are some quality of life buffs, maybe a tiny dps increase in the MT role. What determines the best tanks going forward is 100% based on what SE decide to test players on in each encounter.